You in the Light
The walls and ceiling shatter. Glass shards burst across the room. Cement slabs crush me. My broken body imprisons my arms while my ribcage collapses. Plaster dust fills my nostrils and coats my lips. I can’t will my eyelids to open. I need to tell my family that I love them, but my mouth won’t move. Come quickly death, I pray.
Another explosion. The concrete, the twisted metal bars, and the dust fall away. I spiral into an abyss. The debris clears from my eyes and mouth. In the darkness, I shout, “I love you.”
A higher force jerks my body upright, the blanket falls away. The staccato beat in my head is my breath exhaled in rhythmic pants.
My hand presses across my eyes but it can’t keep the tears in. My husband leans over and touches my shoulder.
“When are you going to get some help? It’s been months now.” The voice is gentle. Even though he tries, he cannot understand why I miss you so much.
I pick up the alarm clock – 3:45 a.m. – the hour I learned that you didn’t survive the bomb blast.
That terrible night, I went to bed not knowing if you were alive. Friends had notified me about the hotel bombing, that they feared you had been in your room. I searched Google and Yahoo for hours looking for any small bit of information until my husband said, “Come to bed.”
At 3:45 a.m., the phone buzzed with SMSes that you died. Facebook posts bleated the news of the bombing, that there were deaths, that you were among them. Friends from that place telephoned me, WhatsApp’ed me. CNN, BBC, and Al-Jazeera aired stories that showed the destruction.
My husband staggered out of the bedroom and stood next to me.
“He didn’t make it.” I choked on each word.
I reached your wife and children. I needed to comfort them, to let them know that your love for them transcended all else. You told me that you wanted to leave that place, you wanted to go home, you wanted to laugh with your family. I did not tell them that you had become afraid, that you questioned what it was you were doing, that your energy had drained away. Perhaps they already knew this, I didn’t want to add to their pain.
I revisit our time together and how – you a Muslim Somali man and me a Catholic American woman – became the dearest of friends. Even after I had moved away from that place, you fought to keep our friendship alive, to keep it fresh with tales of your family and your frustrations. Then, suddenly I was back, constrained by rules that kept us apart. But, you found a way to break through the barriers. The last time we met, we sat looking at the Indian Ocean. I said I was afraid that I would die in a terrorist attack. You laughed your glorious laugh and held my hand as that day turned into dusk. As the sun set you said,
“You know, I really love you. Let’s remember to say that each time we talk.”
And, we did for the next year until that terrible day when those terrorists murdered you.
Now, months later, I barely sleep after 3:45 a.m. I go downstairs and sit alone in the dark, waiting for dawn and the early morning news to begin.
Look into the light!
Your voice rolls through my head. I heave myself off the couch and go to the sliding door. The news anchors blather about the early morning rush hour traffic. It’s 5:30 a.m.
Look into the light!
I go outside. The morning dew on the patio is cold on my feet. I walk into the backyard, blades of mowed grass stick to my wet feet and ankles. The earliest of birdsongs begin.
Look into the light!
I look up to the sky where the palest of pink emerges above the trees and the deep black blue of night fades to the gray blue of pre-dawn. I watch as the pink melts to blue, and gold tinges the clouds.
I am here. I really love you.
I breath the cool morning air, I say out loud, “I really love you too.”
Later that day, your daughter sends me a note:
I heard Daddy’s voice today. He told me to look into the light. He said I will always find him there.
I call her and tell her that this morning you too told me to look into the light.
Each morning I look to the east into the early morning light.
I tell my family and friends that I love them.
I have stopped waking up at 3:45 a.m
Cheryl Sim is a retired American diplomat. She says: I spent most of my thirty-year plus career in Africa and South Asia. My foreign languages are French, Hindi and Thai, and a smattering of Spanish, Somali and Urdu. I met my husband, a retired U.S. military officer, in Mogadishu, Somalia. We live the greater Washington, D.C. area.
She has a writer's blog available at www.simplomacy.com.